Advanced Techniques for Modern Reflections

This is part two of my reflections on Sam Doyan’s and my project ‘ Advanced Techniques for Modern Living’. Since we last spoke I attended the art exhibition where we were showing our video and performing our test ‘The Walking License’. For our set-up we had one couch and two armchairs facing a computer monitor on a plinth, which would display the video whenever people were interested in it. Sam and I were dressed as were in our video, in suits with orange reflective vests, and we walked around the art gallery all night being safe and looking stylish at the same time. In relation to my previous work about outfits affecting personalities I think it was a very interesting experiment being dressed in such a manner, as I got to see not only how I was responding to the outfit, but also how it affected my relationship with other people. Sometimes those who had not seen the video would ask me why Sam and I were dressed that way, and it was a good opportunity to explain our project to them and show them the video. It also gave us an authoritative stance, and definitely differentiated ourselves from the people that attended the art show.

[here is a link to the video documentation on youtube]

In the video Sam and I attempted to write the ‘unwritten rules’ of modern life in video form. It was intended as a parody of the instructional videos that Sam had witnessed in his time working at McDonalds, and we deliberately made the introduction have a ‘Bad TV’ filter to keep in tune with the style. The rules covered things like how to shake hands, how to order at a bar, and how to walk down the street properly. I was initially very worried that the work would come off as either condescending or unfunny, especially to the patrons who had not attended the CAOS class, but I was very pleased to see that people enjoyed it. I think I underestimated people’s ability to laugh at and participate in the very simple aspects of modern life. I did think it was hard to analyse that which is so close to people’s everyday life, and even harder to make it funny, but now I may have to revaluate my views and give people more credit for being able to laugh at very simple concepts.

Sam and I were expecting much less people would be watching the video at a time, as in four to six, and so when we were the first to present ours and we needed to talk to over twenty people it made things a little difficult. I have never had an art exhibition before, and so I was quite nervous about what people would enjoy. We expected to be able to gauge what the people would find funny and tailor our scripts to what they liked, but because there were so many we just had to try and do our best to appeal to a mass audience. I always prefer a conversation to a speech, because you can alter what you say and how you say it based off people’s responses, and I think we might have done a better job if we either had a more concrete script that wasn’t reliant on improvisation for the sake of the audience, or if we had simply recorded our voice-over and played them with the video while we stood in the back.

After the video we hosted our test ‘The Walking License’, which was essentially an everyday obstacle course based off of the problems we talked about in the video. Once again, we had planned for smaller groups, and I don’t think the experience was as well conveyed to the audience as it could have been. We took the first person to volunteer on a walk that mimicked the Learner driver test. I deliberately tried to script the experience to have the same type of seriousness of the test, and I think that came over well as I acted the part of the Examiner. Sam was the ‘Prop’ and provided the tests that would determine whether or not the person succeeded. The tests were: tying up shoes while someone is walking behind you, crossing the road, and avoiding the ‘awkward dodge’ when someone walks at you. Our volunteer passed the test flawlessly, which I was very pleased to see, and he earned himself a Class A Walking License, which Sam and I both signed.

What our project was experimenting with was how people would respond to receiving instructions on very simple tasks. This was what I was most nervous about; as I feared people would ask the question “who are you and why are you telling me how to live my life?” but I guess the reflective vests and suits answered that question by giving us at least the look of authority. I was overwhelmed with how well the experiment went, as many people that had not had prior training in recognising everyday life as art watched the videos with apparent interest and laughed at some concepts which I thought were very simple. I was also happy with producing something that I feel represented both Sam’s and my own sense of humour and attitudes towards art and life.

If I had to do it again, for one I would definitely choose Sam to collaborate with as his skills at video editing and his work ethic were amazing but also because he has similar tastes and views to me, which I feel is very important to any project. The changes I would make though would be to go further with the concepts that we played with, touching on some things that are considered taboo. For reasons of simplicity and mass appeal, and also because we did not know how it would be received, we avoided topics such as sex and drugs. While I think this was definitely the right choice considering the circumstances, if I was to expand the series on Advanced Techniques for Modern Living I would love to cover things like that in a realistic way. I always felt that the education on those topics given in schools was lacking, and that people were often left to discover so many problems by themselves. In the theme of writing the unwritten rules, I feel that direction would be a very interesting one to go in, and would certainly make for an exciting, new experiment.

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